Tag Archives: Distraction

2 Samuel 20:1-22:34

I have a goal planner that breaks goals down into “monthly” (big picture), “weekly,” and “daily” (habit building) activities. Sometimes I can get so focused on the daily habits that I lose sight of the big picture purpose. It takes effort for me to keep a big picture focus. And not just with goals, sometimes I can get caught up in a detail or distraction of circumstance, and then find myself off course of a kingdom focus.

Joab is in pursuit of Sheba, a man who turned against David.

19 “We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?”

20 “Far be it from me!” Joab replied, “Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bikri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.” (2 Samuel 20:19-21, NIV)

Joab keeps his focus: he was after Sheba, not intent on destroying an entire community. That type of focus is a sign of discipline, self-control, and maturity. Joab kept his word and left once he obtained his goal. (Also very impressed with the “wise woman” who cut through all the distraction of an army to get to the point, avoiding mass casualties and destruction.)

During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” (2 Samuel 21:1, NIV)

In the detail of the immediate (a famine), a bigger picture is revealed (the consequences of Saul’s actions as catalyst). Not only am I impressed by David seeking the Lord’s face, but I also notice that God uses immediate issues (like a famine) to bring about (bigger picture) justice. It would take a man after God’s heart to go deeper, to seek understanding, and then have the ability to take action.

But I linger longest in these verses, slowing to take in the meaning. David’s song of praise, of all that the Lord has done for him, and how David lives his life in response.

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
    to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
27 to the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
28 You save the humble,
    but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
29 You, Lord, are my lamp;
    the Lord turns my darkness into light.
30 With your help I can advance against a troop;
    with my God I can scale a wall.

31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
33 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure. (2 Samuel 22:26-33, NIV)

Lord, how often do I lose you in the details? How often do I forget to see with a kingdom focus? I pray that it would be my habit to praise you daily, to seek your face, to give you glory, and to live with discipline, self-control and maturity. May I not be moved by emotions and distractions, but instead live like the “wise woman” who keeps an end goal in mind, despite the circumstances.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 5:1-9:10

The words seem to hold a physical weight. The ark of God is held by the Philistines.

The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors. (1 Samuel 5:6, NIV)

and

But after they had moved it, the Lord’s hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. (1 Samuel 5:9, NIV)

The Philistines send the ark of God away, back to the Israelites.

Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only. (1 Samuel 7:2b-4, NIV)

They gather at Mizpah to fast and confess. Samuel is there to intercede for them. And this is the moment an enemy attacks–when the Israelites commit themselves and show devotion to the Lord.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:10-12, NIV)

Samuel serves as a leader to the Israelites, and when he is old, he appoints his sons to take his place. This is a familiar theme in the Bible: Good leaders who follow the Lord, followed by leaders who don’t.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” (1 Samuel 8:4-9, NIV, emphasis mine)

I sit and think about these verses. I do not want the Lord’s hand against me. An enemy wants me as far from the Lord as possible and will send chaos and conflict my way to distract me from worshiping and keeping a focus.

The search for a lost donkey will lead Saul to Samuel. Saul will be appointed king in a future reading. But it’s in this moment that I see the start of a bigger journey, and Saul–just Saul. Saul before it all. His is one of the saddest stories to me. He makes good choices and bad choices. He struggles with uncertainty, insecurity, pride, jealousy, and anger. But that isn’t what makes his story sad–it’s that he could have done life with God, and he didn’t.

Just verses earlier, a group returns to God. And in the passing of time, they convince themselves there is a better way. God sees it as a rejection of him. It can be done by a people (all individuals acting in a group) and by an individual (Saul, who is to be appointed by God for a task–a very big one).

Father God, let me view each moment as an appointment by you. Let me journey each day with you. When I draw close to you, let me not be distracted by an enemy’s ploys, but help me always keep a kingdom focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Numbers 7; Psalms 42,43; Song of Solomon 5; Hebrews 5

I’m in the beginning third of a book called When to Walk Away by Gary Thomas. One thing that stands out to me with clarity in his book is how many clever ways one can be distracted from his work/calling.

In the scriptures today I make note of the offerings brought in for the Lord. Paragraph after paragraph describing the offering brought in each day. The Lord speaks to Moses, telling him, “Receive their gifts, and use these oxen and wagons for transporting the Tabernacle. Distribute them among the Levites according to the work they have to do.” So Moses took the wagons and oxen and presented them to the Levites. He gave two wagons and four oxen to the Gershonite division for their work …” (Numbers 7:5-7, NLT) My takeaway focuses on: offerings for the Lord being used/redistributed for other work, obedience, kingdom focus.

In the psalms, a sense of abandonment, despair, attack, longing for God and crying out. But these pieces, they pull me back to the Lord, to a kingdom focus.

I hear the tumult of the raging seas
    as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
    and through each night I sing his songs,
    praying to God who gives me life. (Psalm 42:7-8, NLT)

And,

Send out your light and your truth;
    let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you live.
There I will go to the altar of God,
    to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise you with my harp,
    O God, my God! (Psalm 43:3-4, NLT)

In Song of Solomon,

I slept, but my heart was awake,
    when I heard my lover knocking and calling:
“Open to me, my treasure, my darling,
    my dove, my perfect one …”

She questions, she wonders, she delays. There’s no doubt of her passion and desire, but in the wait an opportunity is lost.

My lover tried to unlatch the door,
    and my heart thrilled within me.
I jumped up to open the door for my love,
    and my hands dripped with perfume.
My fingers dripped with lovely myrrh
    as I pulled back the bolt.
I opened to my lover,
    but he was gone!
    My heart sank. (Song of Solomon 5:2, 4-6, NLT)

In Hebrews 5 explains that a high priest is chosen, presenting gifts to God, offering sacrifices, and dealing gently with people. “And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was.

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:4, 7-8, NLT)

All of these scriptures remind me to focus. People and circumstances, my very own heart and even a momentary hesitation can take me off course, distract me, and take my eyes off calling and kingdom work.

Lord, an enemy delights that I would live powerless, fruitless, indecisive and wandering. But you remind me of a bigger picture, a calling piece that fits within it. There are lots of people and things that can distract me, but I want to lock my eyes on you. You remind me repeatedly to focus on your kingdom, to focus on you, the true source of all my joy. I don’t want to live dulled by distraction.

Courtney (66books365)

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Exodus 5-8; Luke 18

My friend for more than twenty-five years died the other week. I listened as his wife spoke in eulogy of his lifetime–told about this man I loved, and shared many things about him I never knew. He had delightful interests, so much talent, and his life story was full and generous and loving and adventurous. How I wished I’d had more time with him–he was truly like a father to me. His life, even in death, continues to inspire me: to live in purpose, on purpose.

The weight of grief, worry, strife and stress has felt oppressive in recent years–these things can take me off course, derail me from life and its purposes. I live in the woods, and find myself wishing I was deeper in the forest, averting my eyes and sometimes my heart from making contact—it feels an awful lot like despair.

I’m not sure if it’s circumstance or the things one tells himself or hears from others, but I hear it in Pharaoh’s voice as he tells Moses, “Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work (Exodus 5:4-5, NLT).”

I can get caught up in the task (of work or routine or stress or grief) at hand, that my focus is redirected into a worldly (small) view instead of a deeper calling and purpose. And whether one places it upon himself, or it’s the voices of those in his life, Kingdom work and purpose can become muddled and muted. Moses and Aaron weren’t distracting the people from their tasks–they were pointing them to it. The world gets it so very backwards, and I fall for it too. Too many hoops, too many tasks, too much people pleasing and accommodating that I neglect the very One who gives me strength, neglect the passions He’s put in my heart and compromise my focus and time until I am weary and worn out. It feels an awful lot like despair.

“Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’”

So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery (Exodus 6:6-9 NLT).

Lord, repeatedly I train myself to order my tasks but to keep my eyes on you. Again. Again. When my focus slips to what’s in front of me, I forget what’s inside of me and what’s ahead of me. The shrill of the ringtone, the chipping away at peace, when I lose sight of you, I become too discouraged too.

I set my thoughts on a Kingdom purpose, a Kingdom focus.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, 30 will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come (Luke 18:29-30, NLT).”

That rich man was disheartened because, perhaps, his (wealth/success/pride/ability) was his real focus, not the inheritance of eternal life he believed he wanted.

Lord, help me to do what I need to do, and let go of what needs to go. I want to walk in truth, and keep my eyes focused on you. Thank you for a friend like David, whose life spoke of intention and inclusion, generosity and love. Thank you for challenging me to see things in a new way, for revealing truths I didn’t see, and for reminding me to seek your Kingdom first.

Courtney (66books365)

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Numbers 23; Psalms 64-65; Isaiah 13; 1Peter 1

Numbers 23 was written for a people prone to squeezing the life out of living. It’s written for me. Self imposed to-do lists are usually far longer than what can be humanly accomplished in one day, and (I confess) are often, how I define success that day. I joke that I don’t want to miss a thing out of life, but then if left to my own devices,  miss what is most important.

My inclination is to do, not to be. My family knows when I am on this train. Once my daughter looked me square in the eyes and said, “Mom, you’re not here.” And she was right; my brain was chasing the next squirrel up a tree. Somehow, I never catch the squirrel.

God knows that this endless doing never satisfies;  He commands his people to STOP, set themselves apart (consecrate) and rest. He appointed festivals and “holy convocations” and warned the people that if they refused to deny their inclinations that they “would be cut off from the people.” Numbers 23:30.  It seems to me that is exactly what I do to myself, when I refuse to rest in God and keep up my futile chase of doing. All this striving is really a fear that God won’t meet me if I stop my talking, stop my doing.

Enter the Word of God to cleanse, refresh and restore:

You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.  ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. the grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ 1Peter 1:23-25

When I stop moving and listen and look, God opens up my heart and does a work within that I don’t understand. His presence fills the restless, greedy places and there is peace:

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it:  the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow. The hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.  Psalm 65:9-13

The Psalmist describes a place inhabited by a people who are following God. On another level, he describes the human heart, when God is allowed access to the land within.

Lord, you know my inclination to go and do, but you call me to come, be still, and enjoy the Sabbath rest you have prepared for me . Forgive me when I have chosen distraction over you. Thank you for your patient, steady call to come and rest in your presence. Thank you for the healing rain of your grace and the joy that springs up within my soul at you goodness. You are mine and I am yours. Amen.

Kathy

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